How Will Dan Duquette Save the Orioles?

Thank goodness that's over. I don't know if this was really the low point in the many pratfalls of the Baltimore Orioles. It seems like with each new frustration and embarrassment  the team just sinks farther and farther away. What made their spoof of a GM search worse than, say, the 30-3 game was that it drug on and on....and on. There was no escaping it, and there was no escaping that all too familiar feeling of hopelessness for this team either. Thank goodness it's over. Now we just need to deal with all of the Orioles' normal issues.

Enter from Stage Right: Dan Duquette.

I'm not going to pull this punch for you all. The Orioles are set up to make Dan Duquette look like a complete fool. They have a huge mountain to climb to even get back into the race for fourth place. They are last in the division in major league talent and last in the division in minor league talent. They are built right now to disappoint and run our new GM right back out of baseball. Which is nothing new, by the way. Since Frank Wren was rushed out of town, no Orioles President of Baseball Operations has gone on to continue to work in any front offices anywhere. Baltimore is the last stop on the line.

But the real kicker, and what makes the O's failures so hard to take, is that it doesn't have to be this way. There is no reason whatsoever why the Orioles can't rebuild and become really, really good. None. I can't overstate the difficulty of the situation here. It's going to be a long and hard road. But it's completely doable. The first thing we need to do is shed that hopelessness while acknowledging the hardships still to come. Dan Duquette can make this work.

How can we expect him to try and thread that particular needle? He's had a lot of previous experience in Boston, Montreal, and Milwaukee. So what can we learn about Dan from all that?

How about: nothing, absolutely nothing? Duquette's been out of baseball for ten years, which is an eternity in the world of baseball. The last time he was employed by a team, Moneyball hadn't yet been written, the All Star Game didn't have any consequences to it, there was no steroid controversy, Rodrigo Lopez was finishing second on Rookie of the Year ballots, and the toughest division in baseball was the AL West. This is a different world he's coming back into. He's undoubtedly a different person today than he was when he packed up his things in Boston.

And this is Baltimore, this isn't Montreal or Boston or Milwaukee. There a unique challenges to every franchise of course. That reality, more than anything else, makes trying to analyze or predict the actions of any General Manager a fool's errand. It's sort of like the fan-favorite question of how good Brian Cashman would look without the Yankees' bottomless swimming pool full of cash. It's an irrelevant question in a lot of ways, because in the real world he's basically a perfect fit for that franchise. As for Dan Duquette, it's far, far too early to know if he's going to fit with the Orioles, just as it would be with any new general manager.

Another frustrating truth is that if the rumors are true about the dysfunction in the warehouse, then the most important things Duquette can do  will be completely and utterly invisible to you and I and everyone else who doesn't work there. The Orioles apparently are in desperate need of  a change in the philosophy of how they run their business. Those kinds of changes trickle down to the on-field product gradually. They aren't sexy like free agent signings or big trades, and trying to discuss them on a blog requires a large amount of conjecture and non-truths. We simply won't be able to see them.

The theme in all of this is that there is a huge veil between the fans and the front office. We can see the output in terms of trades, signings, draft budgets, and so on, but we don't really know anything at all about how a front office works. And we don't know how any executive in any front office really thinks or processes information. We can only guess, but guessing is unsatisfying and filled with partial- and non-truths. Guessing builds a reality that only makes sense if you, like the blind man with the elephant, have a fraction of the whole truth. In the real world, we really don't know much of anything about Dan Duquette's past or how that will inform the Orioles' decisions moving forward.

And so we won't know how good the hiring of Duquette is for the Orioles for a long while. I suspect that improving the franchise is a job that should be measured in years and not months. But, you know what? After everything that's happened, and as cynical as I am about Baltimore baseball...I still feel excited. This is a new beginning. An opportunity to start tackling all of those roadblocks standing in the Orioles' way. This is good.

Welcome to Baltimore, Mr. Duquette.

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